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“Great Location but watch out for caterpillars in the spring”

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Watchman Campground
Certificate of Excellence
Layton, Utah
Level 6 Contributor
135 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 82 helpful votes
“Great Location but watch out for caterpillars in the spring”
Reviewed 16 August 2012

We stayed in the A Loop of Watchman the first part of May right next to the river. It was a great spot and our kids loved the 30 yard walk over to the water to throw rocks in. The campsites are nicely spaced too so you don't feel like you're right on top of your neighbors.
The construction was completed in this section so the bathrooms were clean, bright and nicely upgraded. There is also a nice washing station on the outside of the building.

It is a short walk along the river to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle to take you deeper into the park.

I do have to say that the caterpillars were terrible this year (see below). Walking passed some of the cottownwood trees it sounding like it was raining because of all the caterpillars that were falling to the ground. They loved anything that was green, blue, or black. Completely avoided our red canvas stroller and tan camp chair. They were very quick to make cocoons and when it came time to clean up it was a hassel and a bit messy to get rid of them. We found them everywhere even up the little sleeves where the tent poles go. I didn't really notice them on any hikes just in the campground and visitor area.

"Western Tent Caterpillar
In April and May the campgrounds in Zion National Park are teeming with tent caterpillars. The western tent caterpillar is a native species of the western United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico. Cottonwood trees seem to be the preferred host in Zion Canyon, but tent caterpillars may defoliate many species of broadleaf trees and shrubs. Western tent caterpillar populations are cyclical and reach outbreak densities every 8-10 years. During these peak phases of the population cycle, damage can be extreme, but these are natural processes which are protected on National Park Service lands."

  • Stayed May 2012, travelled with family
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3 Thank PeakHealth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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United States
Level 6 Contributor
43 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 109 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 July 2012

- GORGEOUS. Can't stress that enough. We set up the tent at night, so didn't see our surroundings until we opened the window in the morning... and it was amazing.
- Fairly spacious. We definitely had no problem fitting our 10'x15' humongous tent on the site, and there was still plenty of room to park the SUV and let the kids run around.
- TUBING! Bring your own tubes or pay $4-25 a pop at the local grocery store - or, you know, check out the local stores where you could probably rent one, but we didn't see that store before we went! We took the shuttle up to the Zion Human History Museum, then walked down to the river, got in, and floated in inner tubes down to the campsite. It was amazing and so much fun. I'm pretty sure we're crazy - it was myself, my husband, our 11 year old, and two toddlers, 4 and 2 years old (in life jackets) - and while most of it was easy floating, there were several spots that we got stuck on rocks, and at least once where my husband flipped over. And it was AWESOME :) I would highly recommend it. We ran into one gentleman who said that one year (earlier in the summer when the water was higher), he'd started at the Narrows and floated all the way down! This will definitely need to be tried (when the kids are older)!!
- Wildlife everywhere! There are several different kinds of lizards that are all over the place, which we were all pretty fascinated with (especially the kids). There are deer that will come right into your campsite as well. (Obviously you shouldn't feed or touch any of the wildlife, but it was really neat to see it up close.) Lots of different kinds of insects and birds and other wildlife as well.
- Free shuttles make it really easy to go see all the cool stuff. The shuttles are pretty direct and didn't get too crowded. Even if you have to skip one (which we didn't), they come and go regularly, so you won't wait long. There's an audio tour on the way up to the Temple of Sinawava. There's also a bus into Springdale, but we didn't take that.
- Campground is literally right next to the Visitor Center and gift shop. You can catch the shuttle at the Visitor Center.
- There's a dishwashing station outside the newer bathrooms, and a water pump outside the older ones that was good for washing off dirty toddlers (and trust me when I say that if you have a small child, it will get filthy within about ten seconds of being there).

- This might be a positive, but I was sort of on the fence about it: There is limited cell service and even 3G at the campsite. On one hand it was, "Yay, technology!" but on the other, it kind of felt like cheating.
- The newer bathrooms are clean and well-stocked with toilet paper. The older bathrooms are infested with bugs at night, cramped, and while conveniently located, were not worth the shortcut once the lights were turned on. The newer bathrooms (at least the ladies' rooms) are particularly crowded in the early mornings, but you're less likely to have a bug fly into you...
- When the sun comes up over the mountain line, the temperature goes up 15* within ten minutes. We definitely had to make it a point to be up and out of the tent each day before the sun rose, otherwise we roasted alive inside the tent.
- Three of our four nights there, "quiet hours" were respected. It got busy pretty early - I'd say around 6ish, but you needed to get up early in order to beat the heat. Our fourth night there, people in our loop were jerks until well past midnight, and that's about all I have to say about that.

- The ants.
- That gets two lines: THE ANTS. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it. I am not prone to exaggeration, so let me just say this: there were thousands on our campsite. It was infested. We started our trip in bear country, so we were meticulous about not bringing food into the tent, however after four days, we had ants in the tent. The only "safe" place was the picnic table (we have no idea how), and you had to put your feet up on the bench, otherwise they would crawl up your leg. The worst part is they bit. The would bite your toe and then hold on. It didn't hurt, but it pinched, hard, and drew blood more than once. Ants! Since when do ants draw blood!?! They did not react to ant repellent (yes, I bought some at the local grocery store, and yes, we sprayed it... I'm not sure if that's against the rules or not, but the ants were really That Bad).
- Due to how bad the ants were, we only cooked dinner at the campsite one night out of the four we were there. The other three nights we ate at a restaurant in town, drove up to Bryce Canyon and made dinner up there, and one night we just plain ate whatever we could find while sitting in the car. This was not conducive to our budget.
- No showers. Did I mention the swimming?
- Wind + tents. It got really windy at night (at least, while we were there in early July, it was consistently windy at a particular time of night which died down by early morning), and there's no way to "really" stake down your tent. The sites are bedrock with loose gravel on top. We made due (with some initial help from a kind neighbor) by placing large rocks on top of the stakes.

Observations on specific sites:
- Our site, D Loop #033, had great shade and no back neighbors. When I booked it, I thought it was darn near perfect. And it was...except the ants. NOTHING can make it worth the hordes of ants.
- The site next to ours, D Loop #31, did not have as many ants (how!?!?!), had an awesome, huge rock that the kids (theirs and ours!) loved climbing up and playing on, but had no shade.
- D Loop, Site 34, had some shade, less ants, and was quite spacious, but there's a foot path between sites 32 and 34 that had a decent amount of traffic as it's the direct route to the bathrooms. I would suggest sticking to the outer loops in order to avoid this issue.
- A Loop is closest to the river - I would definitely check out the sites on that loop if you're planning on make a reservation during the summer. Ours had shade, but I'd have preferred the water! (And no ants!)

Springdale (the town outside the South gate):
- The Sol Foods (local grocery store) located past the IMAX theater (there are two; use the one farther from the gate) has a decent selection of foods and supplies. It is, obviously, outrageously expensive compared to a "normal" grocery store, but if you close your eyes and don't look at the total, it's not too bad ;) It's available, and that's what counts.
- There's a good selection of restaurants.
- Supposedly there are pay showers. We looked but nothing was advertised, so we didn't delve much deeper than that.
- Lots of neat little shops.

Touristy stuff:
- The park does not approve of squished pennies (I asked)... however you can find a machine at the local IMAX theater in Springdale (just outside the gate). If you park and walk straight inside, it's to the left of the double doors :)
- There are ranger programs most nights... I'd like to have listened to one, but most nights we were already asleep by that time.
- Definitely drive through the tunnels coming in from the East entrance. It's a long drive in and out, but oh so worth the views.
- We also checked out the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, which are more orange than pink, but definitely worth a stop for the experience. The sand is incredibly fine, and the toddlers kept asking where the water (for the beach) was.
- Bryce Canyon is an easy, scenic two hour drive, and definitely worth the gas to make the day trip.

While Zion was utterly amazing, and the shuttles were very convenient, I think that in the future, we will stay in Bryce and drive into Zion. Bryce was 30* cooler (while we were in Zion, it was over 110* for two days), there were less ants, and it was just as amazing. Downside, no swimming at Bryce, but... We'll see :)

Room Tip: A Loop is near the river. Outer loops (in general) seem to have more space, or at least more privacy...
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  • Stayed July 2012, travelled with family
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29 Thank lostmemorycard
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 5 Contributor
71 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 July 2012

This campground has a great location because it's right next to the visitors center where you can pick up the shuttle for the canyon. The downside as other people have stated is lack of shade for some sites and the ones in the middle are close together. Luckily I heard our neighbors talking about swimming. Down by the amphitheater there is access to the river, so that is where we cooled off. For $4 I walked outside to a store, bought a tube and the kids had a great time for hours. The bathrooms are old, but they are building new ones.

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled with family
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1 Thank rtlg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kissimmee, Florida
Level 6 Contributor
109 reviews
42 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 July 2012

Did tent camping in July. We reserved a site, but it didn't have shade, but we brought our own. We had just set up our tent and shade and wind and rain came, but we had not put in the stakes yet. Thankfully a couple of people came over to help hold stuff down in the wind while my husband and I held the tent until we got staked in. Too hot and weather was unpredictable to tent camp in July. Nice, newer bathrooms, loved having a sink to do dishes in!! We camped in the A loop and played in the river at sunset time with others trying to cool off.

Room Tip: make a reservation online
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  • Stayed July 2012, travelled with family
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1 Thank Becky D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago, IL
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
Reviewed 6 July 2012

We stayed 2 nights and most of our neighbors seemed to stay only one. If its summer and you get a full sun site - you are going to hate it. Temps were over 100 during our stay in early July. The camp sites are level. Fire danger was extreme so they were not allowing wood or charcoal fires. THERE ARE NO SHOWERS and the BATHROOMS are BASIC but looks like a new one is under construction. People were lined up to wash their hair and do their dishes at the pump outside the bathroom. So having said that, the location is really good and it is really cheap and you can walk to the river to swim and cool off. Also an easy walk over the bridge is an Imax type theater, adventure outfitter, and market - loved that!

Room Tip: We were in D loop - the furthest loop. it would be nicer to be in a loop closer to the visitor cent...
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  • Stayed July 2012, travelled with family
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Thank Skowgirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, CA
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 July 2012

It had been more than 20 years since our last trip to Zion. We were pleasantly surprised by the upgrades that have been made to this park. We were in the "A" loop of Watchman Campground. The sites are all large and level with plenty of room between them. Lots of trees and shrubs, too as well as a native plant restoration project that is ongoing. They have added electricity hookups to each of the sites in this loop. We camped here in a 5th wheel, so that was really handy. It's nice to be able to run your air conditioner without disturbing other campers with generator noise. There was a brand new bathroom in our loop. Zion has a fabulous, free shuttle service that is convenient to use. We'll go back again!

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
1 Thank JGHM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 July 2012

This is one of the most scenic campsites ever! The canyon is spectacular with hiking trails within walking distance. Despite the 90+ degree weather it was quite pleasant and relatively quiet given the number of campsites. The only downside is there are no showers.

  • Stayed June 2012
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
Thank 12345jen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Watchman Campground

Property: Watchman Campground
Address: Watchman Campground Highway 89, C Loop, Zion National Park, UT 84737
Region: United States > Utah > Zion National Park
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Speciality Lodging in Zion National Park
Number of rooms: 228
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Consists of 228 campsites with restrooms. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Watchman Campground Hotel Zion National Park
Watchman Campground Zion National Park, Utah

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